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December 11, 2015
AAA Survey Reveals Limitations of Popular New Safety Feature

Motorists cautioned to no rely solely on Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems when backing up

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MADISON, Wisc. (December 11, 2015) — With the holiday season in full swing motorists are certain to experience distracted drivers and pedestrians in crowded parking lots.  Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) systems are used to help motorists avoid these types of crashes. However, AAA warns drivers not to solely rely on this technology to prevent crashes.
In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA tested rear cross traffic alert systems, designed to alert drivers to traffic passing behind a reversing vehicle, and found significant system limitations exist when parked between larger vehicles, such as SUVs or minivans.  In this common parking lot scenario, the tested systems failed to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles and other vehicles at alarming rates:
  • A passing motorcycle was not detected by the systems in nearly half (48%) of tests.
  • The systems failed to detect a bicycle passing behind the vehicle two in five times.
  • The systems failed to detect a passing vehicle three in ten times.
While not all systems are designed to detect pedestrians, the technology failed to detect pedestrians the majority (60%) of the time.

“Motorists should always physically check behind their vehicle before backing out of a parking space because there may be objects the sensors do not detect,” said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA Wisconsin. “It’s important to keep in mind that RCTA systems only work when a motorist is backing straight out of a parking space. The system does not work if you are parked at an angle.”

AAA offers the following recommendations:
  • If car shopping, a vehicle equipped with RCTA system may boost rear visibility, but should not be relied on to prevent crashes.
  • Even if your vehicle is equipped with RCTA system, always reverse slowly, turning and checking blind spots to verify that a vehicle, bicyclist or pedestrian is not approaching the vehicle.
  • Owners of a vehicle equipped with RCTA system should understand system limitations before using the feature. In AAA’s testing, system accuracy varied widely among vehicles.
  • Whenever possible, reverse into a parking space. Driving forward out of a parking space increases driver visibility and lessens the likelihood of a crash.
  • Consumers should inquire about the cost of RCTA systems. Two in five 2015 model year vehicles will have this technology. Packages that include this feature range in price from $600 to more than $9,000. The average cost for this feature on 2015 model year vehicles is approximately $2,373.
“RCTA systems were designed to improve safety features in vehicles. In order for the technology to work properly, motorists’ knowledge of the operating system is key,” said Jarmusz.

Previous AAA testing of rear-view camera systems, required on all new vehicles by 2018, revealed significant consumer benefits including increased visibility of the rear blind zone by an average of 46 percent.  However, it’s important to note that no system shows 100 percent of the space behind a vehicle and that rain, snow or slush can impede camera visibility.


Nick Jarmusz
phone: 608-828-2495
About The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance and financial services offerings to approximately 9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with nearly 55 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.


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